The Oconee County Board of Commissioners will consider decommissioning its Land Application System sewage treatment facility on Rocky Branch Road and converting it into a park, Commission Chair John Daniell said at the first-ever State of the County presentation on Wednesday.
The nearly 250-acre site also could accommodate a new fire station and a new facility for the Fleet Maintenance, Water Resources and Public Works departments, Daniell told the nearly 70 people assembled for the presentation.
Daniell said he expects to come before the Commission with a plan for decommissioning the LAS site in the next several months, but he said the plans for the new park are long range–probably many years in the future.
In the hour-long presentation Daniell ran through a series of recent activities and accomplishments of the county, including the upgrade to the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant, the planting of trees on Mars Hill Road, and plans for a county fiber optic network.
The Oconee County Chamber of Commerce was host for the presentation, which took place at the Oconee State Bank Operations Center, 7920 Macon Highway.
The LAS sits on 246 acres on Rocky Branch Road near North Oconee High School.
According to county tax records, the county purchased the property in 2003 and began operating the sewage treatment facility shortly after that time.
Sewage water is pumped through a series of lagoons and then sprayed on hayfields on the site.
Daniells told the State of the County audience that the technology is now dated and difficult to operate. The county's expanded Calls Creek sewage treatment plant can handle the flow now going to the LAS.
In addition, he said the location it not ideal as the county tries to eliminate pump stations on its sewer lines.
“It is problematic having a sewage treatment plant at one of the higher points in the county,” he said.
Daniell unveiled what he called a “possibility chart, a possibility sketch of what could happen at the LAS if the Board agrees to the decommissioning.”
|Sketch Of Possible Park On LAS Site (Click To Enlarge)|
Daniell said W & A Engineering, 2470 Daniells Bridge Road, had prepared the chart, which shows 13 multi-use fields, a track and field, a dog park, an indoor basketball facility, a disc golf course, a bike trail and a pedestrian path.
The design also incorporates an existing pond and envisions the addition of another.
The LAS is on a tributary to Barber Creek, and that tributary and the existing woods around it are incorporated into the design Daniell presented.
“This has not been vetted any more than just a few of us sitting around the table saying what could we do,” Daniell said. “We’ve got a long ways to go.
“Make no mistake,” Daniell said. “This is not a five or 10 year project. This is a lot of money and a lot of time to get to that area.”
The LAS site would add significantly to the county’s park land.
Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain road is 198 acres, while Herman C. Michael across from Oconee Veterans Park is 38 acres. Heritage Park in the far south of the county of U.S. 441 is 364 acres, and the Bogart Sports complex is 33 acres.
Outline Of Presentation
Daniell’s comments on the possible decommissioning of the LAS site were near the end of his one-hour presentation.
The presentation focused on four goals: Smart Government, Smart Growth, Smart Infrastructure, and Quality of Live. (The PowerPoint Daniell used is on the county web site.)
Those same goals are articulated in the Oconee County Annual Report for 2018, which was released at the State of the County meeting and also is available on the county web site.
Before turning to those four goals, Daniell and the Annual Report review financial data for the county.
Those data show that 51 percent of the county’s revenue is from property tax, and Daniell said later in the presentation that his goal is to get that figure to below 50 percent by bringing new businesses to the county.
“Engagement and transparency are kind of our key words,” Daniell said as he began discussing Smart Government.
|Slide In Smart Government Section Of Presentation (Click To Enlarge)|
“I think engagement for me is the cornerstone of that statement,” he said. “We want engagement from our employees, but we want engagement from the community.”
“People are our greatest asset,” Daniell said, noting that the county now has 260 full-time employees, down from 289 in 2009.
“We don’t really have a number in mind on what the right number of employees is,” Daniell said. “What we are looking for is having the right number of people to be efficient in the phase.”
Daniell referenced the county’s decision to move forward with plans for a high speed fiber optic Internet network in the county as an example of smart government.
Daniell began his comments on Smart Growth by referencing the Comprehensive Plan the county adopted in 2018.
|Slide In Smart Growth Section of Presentation (Click To Enlarge)|
“We want to make sure we get quality development in the county,” Daniell said.
Daniell presented a chart showing that the county had issued 309 new residential building permits in 2018, down from 462 in 2006.
“We’re trying to be aware of how fast the county can grow,” he said.
“We’re not necessarily trying to stop growth,” Daniell said. “It is good for business to have some growth, but it has got to be at a rate that we don’t destroy what makes you want to come here in the first place.”
Daniell said 300 permits per year is a good rate of growth.
Daniell cited the county’s investment in its Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility as an example of investment in smart infrastructure.
He announced that the county had received its permit to increase that plant’s capacity to 1.5 million gallons per day from 1 million gallons per day.
Daniell also discussed the improvements to the Courthouse, the construction of Fire Station No. 8 on Virgil Langford Road, and the beautification of Mars Hill Road.
“Get ready,” Daniell told the gathering, “because roundabouts are coming to Oconee County.”
Daniell said he was a skeptic about roundabouts but has been convinced of their worth and that the county will build as many as four on Malcom Bridge Road between Mars Hill Road and Lenru Road.
The decommissioning of the LAS site was the final example Daniell gave of Smart Infrastructure.
Quality of Life
Daniell said Quality of Life “is really why almost everybody is here” in Oconee County.
He cited the expansion of multi-use field at Oconee Veterans Park as an example of the county’s investment in Quality of Life.
He also mentioned the county’s investment in a grant application to expand the Senior Center in Oconee Veterans Park as another investment in Qualify of Life.
Other examples are the newly renovated Bogart Library, Daniell said.
The video below is of the entire State of the County session on March 27.
Courtney Bernardi, president of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, introduced Daniell. Also in attendance were commissioners Chuck Horton, Mark Saxon and Mark Thomas.
Daniell began his comments on Smart Government at 8:28 in the video.
He began his comments on Smart Growth at 15:40.
He made his comments on Smart Infrastructure starting at 28:35.
Specific comments on the LAS site and a possible future park are at 48:44 in the video.
Daniell’s comments on Quality of Life begin at 51:08.
Marshall Hooks, vice president of Operations for the Chamber, closed the session with announcements of upcoming events.